Radicalisation ‘Extremism’ & ‘Islamism’ : Realities and Myths in the ‘war on terror’
The Muslim community in Britain has been under a continuous spotlight since the events of 9/11 and 7/7 in particular. The bombings triggered a wide-ranging debate that sought to understand the processes at work within the Muslim community, map its changes, scrutinise the influences it is subject to and identify events in its recent history that may explain why Muslim British citizens would want to turn on Britain.
This debate to date has blamed a number of different factors for contributing to this heightened terror threat, but has been offset by sensationalist claims and alarmist comments that have only acted to obscure an accurate picture and to entrench stereotypes in an already polarised debate. It has sought to discredit legitimate Islamic political ideas by suggesting they increase the Muslim community’s susceptibility to using violence. To date, the debate has lacked an honest, dispassionate assessment of the forces at play within the Muslim community. The impact of which has been dangerous characterisations of Islam and the Muslim community, misinformed public fear and misguided government policy.
This report by Hizb ut-Tahrir Britain aims to expose the many inconsistencies in the ‘War on Terror’ narrative and the manipulation of security fears to attack political ideas that carry considerable support in the Muslim world. Our report challenges misconceptions about radicalisation, ‘extremism’ and political violence, explains Islam’s political tenets and maps a way forward for the future.
The report describes how the language used in the security debate has become politicised to counter dissenting voices, particularly to falsely claim Islamic political ideas are at the part of the problem. It challenges the view that the association between Islam and contemporary politics – often termed ‘Islamism’ – is part of a process that increases the Muslim community’s vulnerability to the use of violence. It is an assumption that it is built on a false characterisation of the relationship between Islam and politics in general. The report argues that there has, over many years, been a process that first saw a general ‘politicisation’ of the Muslim community and subsequent ‘Islamicisation’ of Muslim politics in Britain, rather than ‘radicalisation’. The false labelling reflects a failure to understand Islam and therefore to position its ideas within a secular political system.
The report goes on to cite credible research that calls into question the Bush-Blair argument that Islamic political ideas inherently cause violence and insecurity. The trend towards greater Islamic political practice, far from being a precursor to violence, often provides people with an alternative. The report argues that politically motivated violence is a broader issue often occurring as a response to political oppression and injustice rather than because of ideology or theology. Hence, the association of Islamic political ideas with violence is misleading. Importantly, recent poll evidence shows there is little support for violence as a means of change in the Muslim world, polls which simultaneously show increasingly levels of support for Islamic politics. The report also highlights the need to separate goals from means so as to not to link widely held legitimate political ideas with violence.
The report challenges attempts to discredit one of the central goals of current Islamic political activity in the Muslim world: the establishment of an independent Islamic political system in the Muslim world, or Caliphate. Just as with Islamic politics more generally, a host of arguments have been forwarded to suggest such the Caliphate would be unwelcome prospect and that its emergence should be opposed, including attempts to link its reality with violence. The report address failures in the Western discourse on the Caliphate, explains the position of the Caliphate in Islamic orthodoxy and describes how the Caliphate is a distinct and alternative political system. Crucially, it argues the Caliphate will be a stabilising force for the Muslim world.
In discussing a way forward, the report highlights how attempts at reforming Islam itself have been discredited and gained little traction amongst Muslims – Islamic orthodoxy has won the opinion in the Muslim world. As part of diagnosing the problem, the report argues Western colonialism not Islam has been at the heart of the political instability and crises of the Muslim world. The onset of colonisation also disrupted indigenous efforts at modernising the Muslim world. Importantly, Islam played a historic role in preventing political excess, tyranny and totalitarianism in the Muslim world and its absence has allowed these to go unchecked, as has been acknowledged by senior academics. Importantly, the Muslim world should be allowed to determine its own political future, not the West.
Through examining the statements of senior politicians, the report demonstrates the primary concern of many has, and still remains, preventing Islamic political change so as to protect the US and Britain’s unrivalled influence over events in the Muslim world. In the corridors of Washington and Westminster, Islam’s political ideas are seen as a potential threat – not to security – but to the control, exploitation and interference that has continued for decades. Yet on the ‘Muslim street’ these ideas mean liberation from tyranny and oppression, a connection to their beliefs and history and the ability to shape their own political destiny.